Shell Rock River State Water Trail

Water access on the Shell Rock River

The Shell Rock River begins at the outlet of Albert Lea Lake and flows 113 miles to the Mississippi River, joining the Cedar and Iowa rivers along the way. This warm, gentle stream was named for the fossilized shells found along its banks. From the headwaters at Fountain Lake, the Shell Rock River State Water Trail travels 20 miles through central Freeborn County to the Iowa border.

River locator map


River segments and maps

This river has only one segment. Get maps and more information.


The Shell Rock River Watershed drains 246 square miles within Freeborn County. The watershed's shallow lakes and marshes were formed when the last glaciers retreated from Minnesota around 10,000 years ago. Soils in this part of the corn belt region are glacial tills, with the surrounding lakes formed by glacial drift deposits and meltwater.

Fish and wildlife

Eating fish from a Minnesota river or lake? Read the MN Department of Health's fish consumption advisory 


  • Black bullhead
  • Bluegills
  • Channel catfish
  • Crappies
  • Walleye


  • Beavers
  • Leopard frogs
  • Mink
  • Muskrat
  • Otters
  • Painted turtles
  • Raccoons
  • White-tailed deer


  • Bald eagles
  • Belted kingfishers
  • Cooper's hawks
  • Eastern kingbirds
  • Great blue herons
  • Great horned owls
  • Mallards
  • Red-tailed hawks
  • Spotted sandpipers
  • Yellowthroats


The Shell Rock River watershed has been a desirable place to live for thousands of years, providing important travel routes to and from the Mississippi River. Archaeologists have identified stone tools in the area that date from the Paleoindian Period (12,000-8,000 years ago) to as recent as four hundred years ago.

Myre-Big Island State Park contains dozens of archaeological sites representing American Indian campsites, hunting and gathering activities, and burial grounds. Historical sites within the watershed are also representative of early Euro-Americans, including homesteads dating from the mid-nineteenth century.

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